Nationwide push for family leave time sparking conversation in Lowcountry

Nationwide push for family leave time sparking conversation in Lowcountry

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A nationwide push for more family leave time is sparking a conversation in the Lowcountry.

On Wednesday, the City of Charleston’s Commission on Women got the ball rolling by looking into how parents could get more leave in the event of a new baby or family emergency.

The commission stated they’re looking at what is currently in place when it comes to the family medical leave act and what sort of issues that surround that.

“We’ve really been looking closely at what the Family Medical Leave Act does, which is fabulous, but it’s not leave with pay,” Commission on Women Chair Jennet Robinson Alterman said. “We’re hoping that we can talk through the issues around paid maternity leave, and also paternity leave for fathers with the city with the hopes that maybe we can get a few weeks of paid leave, in addition to what an employee has already accrued in terms of their leave."

The federal law requires employers to grant new parents up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off.

Alterman said city employees can currently get short term disability and receive a portion of their pay. Alterman said people want more time home with their families, and they’re looking at what other cities are doing.

“Rock Hill is the only municipality in the state that has a paid family leave policy and they determined four weeks of paid leave didn’t affect the budget,” Alterman said.

Parents said the first few weeks home with a newborn is critical.

“You're getting used to so much whether it's your first child or whether it's adjusting to each time a new member of the family is added,” Heather Johnson said.

Johnson said having paternity time is also critical.

“I mean you’re talking about waking up every two hours,” Johnson said. “If your baby needs to eat every two hours, you still have to then get your baby back to sleep. So just the sleep alone and adjusting like you need the teamwork effort.”

The commission is just talking about potential changes for city employees, but the hope would be that would spread across the community.

“We're looking into it, we're not trying to push a broad agenda at this point,” Alterman said.

The Commission on Women looks into issues surrounding women and girls within the City of Charleston.

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